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If your AV system is about to collapse into a heap on the floor then itís time you did something about it. Rick Maybury has been dusting off his woodwork and metal work O-Levels, getting to grips with some home-assembly AV furniture



If youíre one of those really well organised people, with a professionally designed home cinema system, meticulously planned from the ground up, to integrate with and compliment your lifestyle and listening environment, then you need trouble yourself no further with this article. Bye-bye.


Well, thatís him gone, smug bastard (can I say that...?). If, on the other hand, like the rest of us, your AV system consists of a teetering stack of boxes hiding a ratís nest of cables, you should seriously consider sorting it all out, before gravity takes its inevitable toll. The simplest way to do that is to reassemble the system in some kind of enclosure or racking system. Apart from looking a lot neater it makes it easier to add or remove components and isolate faults, should anything go wrong. You might even notice some improvement in performance.


AV furniture, like the more other sort, comes in a huge assortment of shapes, sizes, styles and of course prices. The basic choices are the same though, you can pop down to your local furniture warehouse and pick up off the peg products and home-assembly kits for a few quid, or spend a small fortune on craftsman-built pieces that will outlive you and your system. However, weíre mostly interested in what lies between those two extremes, and that includes the better flat-pack designs, and purpose-made assemblies from the hi-fi specialists.


During the research for this feature we spoke to a number of specialist AV dealers up and down the country, seeking their views on custom installations. Almost without exception they told us that the market for people willing and able to spend upwards of twenty-five grand on bespoke AV furniture is actually very small, and not getting any larger. Moreover, according to one disgruntled South London dealer, those who have the money to spend on this type of  system tend to be more interested in looks than performance. This contrasts starkly with the US experience, where thereís even a monthly magazine, called AV interiors, devoted to the topic!       


The concept of AV furniture clearly has a long way to go in the British psyche, but itís something weíre going to have to get used to as we attach ever more devices to our TVs. Eventually, one day, AV systems will come packed inside one black box but until then itís prudent to adopt a flexible approach. Rather than buy something that will suit your present system needs think about the future, with enclosures that have the room, or the capacity to expand.


These days a typical AV set-up consists of a large-screen TV, VCR, satellite tuner and AV amp, it may also include hi-fi components, like tape and CD decks, and maybe a laserdisc or digital video disc player. If the system has a surround-sound processor there should be space for a centre-front speaker, close to the screen. Even a modest system will involve a lot of wires and cables, so think carefully where theyíre going, open-backed shelves are clearly better in that respect.


Rigidity is a major consideration, and this is one area where the design of AV furniture can have an impact on performance, not to mention safety. A fully grown home cinema TV can weigh in at over 50 kgs, so itís no good trying to stuff a 33-inch telly into a lightweight wall storage unit, designed for ornaments and vases of flowers. Ideally shelves or racks should be level and in firm contact with the floor, not just floating on the shagpile. If the frame or the shelves are not sufficiently well insulated they can transmit vibrations from speakers and sub-woofers to audio and video components, and that will affect picture and sound quality. 


Weíve put together (literally...) a selection of six mid-priced AV units that should give you a fair idea of whatís available. Use them as a starting point, but in the end youíre on your own when it comes to the aesthetics of AV furniture. Much depends on what youíre trying to achieve. If you want to draw attention to your system then big, bold and brightly coloured racks or stacks will do the job; the Italian GM Accessori units (pictured here??) should give you something to think about! If, on the other hand youíre interested in a more discrete approach then consider furniture which blends in with its surroundings, or possibly even fully enclosed units that keep the boxes out of sight.





Alphason produce modular AV shelving systems, based around tubular steel pillars and smoothly curved MDF shelves. The configuration weíve been looking at comprises a wide two-shelf unit with a TV turntable bolted to the top. Itís sold in flat-pack form and comes supplied with a pair of spanners plus trims and shelf separators. Assembly takes around 15 to 20 minutes; the pillars, end-caps and shelves all have to be carefully slotted together using threaded steel rods. It can be quite fiddly and itís a good idea to have a helper. Once all the bolts have been tightened the structure feels reasonably secure. A set of plastic caps cover the unsightly top-bolts, theyíre not very pretty either, and could get in the way of components placed alongside the TV on the top. Itís an open backed design, so thereís no problems with cables and wires.


The turntable is an excellent idea though its position is fixed at one end, which may be inconvenient for some installations. Itís sturdy enough to take big-screen sets, and it moves easily, a little too easily in fact. It could do with some sort of brake or lock, especially if there are kids around, who seem to find it irresistible. The quality of the finish is very good and it has no sharp corners or edges. The design is plain and unobtrusive so it should fit in easily with most furnishing styles.


Make/model               Alphason AV24/17S AV Base Module

Typical price               £229.95

Dimensions                 1270 x 580 x 395 mm            

Contact                       Alphason Designs Ltd., Moss Industrial Estate, St Helens Road, Leigh, Lancashire WN7 3PT. Telephone (01942) 678000


Aesthetics                   ****

Build quality               ****

Ease of assembly            ***     

Upgradability            ***     

Value for money 78%




If you want a modular AV racking system that can double up as industrial scaffolding, then look no further than the Apollo Aria, this is a serious piece of ironmongery! The design is based around a series of interlocking, cross-braced platforms or frames, that link together both vertically and horizontally, so, in theory, it can be as high and wide as the room, and your budget permit. Basic units come in three sizes, 455, 600 and 800 mm wide by 455 mm deep. Add-on frames stack on top of the base assembly, theyíre held together by threaded rods inside metal link tubes. The tubes come in a range of sizes, so itís possible to create shelves of varying depth. The shelves are made of toughened glass or MDF board, they sit on small rubber pads dotted around the frame. Purpose-designed CD and video storage draws can be slotted between the frames. Units are normally supplied with adjustable spiked feet, though castors can be fitted instead.


Assembly is quick and simple, a spanner is all thatís needed to tighten the bolts, to make the structure rock-solid. The frames and link tubes are made entirely of steel, the black textured finish looks good and it should be durable. Strength is simply not an issue, Aria has been grossly over-engineered and can easily support the heaviest TVs as the load is evenly distributed to the pillars through the cross bracing. In spite of that itís not in the least overpowering, and wonít appear out of place in contemporary or traditional interiors.


Make/model               Apollo Aria Modular System           

Typical price               System shown £395.25

Dimensions                 455 x 800 x 900 mm            

Contact                       Zenith Crown Ltd., Tipton Rd, Dudley, West Midlands, DY1 4SQ. Telephone 0121-520 5070


Aesthetics                   ****

Build quality               *****

Ease of assembly            ****   

Upgradability            ***** 

Value for money 85%




Yes Dexion, the metal shelf people, they too might have a solution for your AV furnishing problems. In fact their traditional angle-frame shelving is periodically trendy, and can certainly do the job in hand exceedingly well. However, weíve been trying out their ĎSpeedframeí system, originally designed for displays in shops, offices and exhibitions, it can also be used to make tough-looking AV system racks and enclosures for the home. Speedframe is based around lengths of straight and curved square-section alloy tubes, with slot-together joints. The permutations are almost endless. Techniform, their South London distributors assembled the parts for a simple three shelf AV rack, but it could be almost any size or shape. Tubes and shelves can be cut to length, just tell them what you need.


It goes together very easily, no special tools are required, just a large soft-faced mallet; once everything is locked into place itís incredibly strong, and very heavy! Itís infinitely expandable too, and thereís numerous options for adding solid or glazed panels, doors, suspended brackets for shelves, even component bins -- a handy place to store tapes and CDs? Itís relatively cheap; tubes, joining blocks and panels are available in a range of colours and finishes, though the somewhat stark and largely angular shapes may not suit softer interior styles.


Make/model               Dexion Speedframe

Typical price               AV rack shown approximately £123

Dimensions                 thatís up to you!                   

Contact                       Dexion Ltd., Maylands Avenue, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire HP2 7DF. (01442) 217145. Thanks to: Techniform Ltd, 0171-703 0481


Aesthetics                   ***

Build quality               ****

Ease of assembly            ***** 

Upgradability            ***** 

Value for money 85%



The Scandinavian  furniture giant have a well-earned reputation for the design and quality of their products. Their latest 1996 catalogue contains a couple of dozen consoles, racking systems and modular enclosures, in wood, fibre-board and metal, itís well worth a browse, whatever your system requirements, decor or budget.  Weíve been looking at Lack (all of their stuff has wacky names..), a simple and stylish low-level TV storage made from black lacquered MDF. The top shelf is wide enough for the largest TVs, and the shelf-space below has plenty of room for a VCR, sat tuner, AV amp and bookshelf speakers. Thereís a cut-out on the back panel for cables. Top tip: get the mains leads though first as the hole only just big enough for a 3-pin plug.


Itís flat-packed, with all of the small parts neatly bagged, it even comes with an Allen key wrench, the only tool you have to supply is a large cross-head screwdriver. The instructions are a model of clarity, it went together really easily; one person can do it, two people are even better though, as some of the pieces are quite heavy. Assembly took around 15 minutes, no parts were missing, and amazingly, nothing left over. The standard of construction is good, it feels quite rigid, though a third set of castors in the middle might be a good idea, to spread the weight more evenly, especially if itís to support the weight of a really large TV. Functional, sturdy and capable of blending in with almost any type of decor. By the way, Ikea stores also sell great meatballs...


Make/model               Lack TV storage unit

Typical price               £54

Dimensions                 1250 x 430 x 460 mm

Contact                       HQ: Ikea Brent Park, 2 Drury Way, North Circular Road, London NW10 OTH. Telephone 0181-208 5600 (stores nation-wide)


Aesthetics                   ****

Build quality               ****

Ease of assembly            ***** 

Upgradability            ***     

Meatballs                   *****

Value for money 80%




If you havenít got any room left on the floor for your AV system, then why not hang it on the wall? Guernsey-based Pivotelli produce high-grade video and audio component wall-mounts, widely used in commercial, educational and industrial applications, but theyíre just as useful around the home. Weíve chosen three units from their extensive range: Gem Plus TV support; Zircon VCR bracket, and Coral speaker mounts. This sort of set-up would be ideal for simpler systems (a Dolby Pro Logic TV and VCR etc.). Together they cost around £100, which compares quite favourably with more traditional forms of AV furniture.


The mounts are fabricated from steel and alloy, they look as though theyíre built to last. Each one comes with it own heavy-duty fixing kit and surprisingly easy to follow instructions. Gem Plus can hold up to 80kgs, which is more than sufficient for most large-screen TVs, though bear in mind the load is transferred to the wall, so make sure it can take it! The mounting plate can turn through 90 degrees, and tilt through 10 degrees, to adjust the viewing angle. The Zircon support bolts to the underside of the GEM. Itís big enough to take the largest VCRs, and like the GEM, the cables can be routed out of sight, inside the mounting brackets. Coral speaker brackets can easily hold quite large enclosures, weighing up to up to 20kgs, and once again the mounting plate is adjustable.  A big-screen TV and a pair of chunky speakers halfway up the living-room wall is quite a sight, not terribly elegant, but it could be the solution to a lot of problems.


Make/model               Pivotelli AV System Supports

Typical price               Gem Plus £43.95, Zircon £25.95, Coral £29.95

Dimensions                 Gem Plus: 540 x 500 x 250; Zircon accommodates VCRs up to 480 x 140 mm, Coral accommodates speaker widths 155 to 260 mm

Contact                       Pivotelli, Church Road Street, Guernsey, Channel Islands GY2 4LW. (01481) 46818. UK Distributor: BANDRIDGE LTD, Premiere House, 18 Deer Park Road, Wimbledon, London SW1 3TU. Telephone  0181-543 3633


Aesthetics                   ***

Build quality               *****

Ease of assembly            ***     

Upgradability            ***     

Value for money 80%



The X305 is part of a large range of Soundstyle tables and racks from Goldring Products. Theyíre available in seven different colours (symphony grey, opus green, classic black, concert blue, sonata blue rock red and harmony grey), the red is really eye-catching. The strong welded metal frames are supplied ready built, though itís still necessary to fit the end caps, castors (or adjustable spike feet), and little rubber pads for the tinted toughened glass (or MDF fibreboard) shelves. The rubber thingummys are a real pain, the holes are far too small, it took us nearly half and hour to get them all in...


Otherwise the design is imposing, moreover the quality of the finish is very good. The spiked feet are sharp enough to penetrate deep-pile carpet, to put the structure in solid contact with floorboards beneath; mind out if youíve got parquet floors, though.  The top shelf is large (and strong) enough for a 33-inch TV. The shelves underneath are spaced at 16 cm and 25 cm with plenty of room for a VCR and large AV amp or satellite tuner. Unfortunately the shelves are fixed, thereís no way of adding extra shelves, or combining it with other units, though wider (and taller) tables are available, that can take an entire AV system. Apart from the lack of flexibility this is a classic design, simple and unfussy. Depending on the choice of finish it can be used to compliment an existing colour scheme, or stand out, like the proverbial sore thumb. 


Make/model               Soundstyle X305

Typical price               £199.95

Dimensions                 770 x 437 x 502 mm            

Contact                       Goldring Products Ltd., 8 Greyfriars Road, Bury St. Edmunds Suffolk IP32 7DX. Telephone 0284) 701101


Aesthetics                   ****

Build quality               *****

Ease of assembly            ***     

Upgradability            *         

Value for money 80%



”. R. Maybury 1995 1409



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